Crime Of Privilege
By Walter Walker
A word to the wise for those who may pick up Crime of Privilege and experience a strong sense of déjà vu: yes, Walter Walker’s legal thriller is a thinly veiled treatment of some of the most tawdry, scandalous chapters from Kennedy family history, including the 1975 murder of Martha Moxley and the 1991 William Kennedy Smith rape trial. But the book is much more than that: it’s an unsettling, multi-layered look at the insidious symbiosis between power and corruption.
When we first meet George Becket, a young lawyer who owes his entire career and social standing to the wealthy, connected Gregory clan, he’s in close proximity to a criminal act. What he witnessed comes into sharper focus when, years later, the distraught father of Heidi Telford, a beautiful young woman found with her skull bashed in at a Cape Cod golf club, seeks Becket’s help finding out what the man’s convinced the cops aren’t investigating: whether one of the Gregorys, or several, were responsible for Heidi’s death.
The real and thrilling whodunit of Crime of Privilege is less about which Gregory killed Heidi and more about whether Becket will be able to comprehend the depths of the clan’s power, how casually they wield it to cajole, threaten, or hurt others, and how much he’s been under their thumb. Walker, himself a San Francisco-based trial lawyer returning to fiction after writing several award-winning crime novels in the 1980s and 1990s, skilfully exposes Becket’s misunderstanding of his own and his benefactors’ motives even as his description of exclusive parties, back-room dealings, and political machinations underscore the author’s own familiarity with privilege. We like to think America is a land without class; underneath the guise of a gripping thriller, Crime of Privilege demonstrates why that statement is dangerously false.